Zorica Bjelic shares her journey as an international volleyball referee

FIVB.com talks to prominent female referee about her career and challenges

Serbia’s Zorica Bjelic is an international volleyball referee and member of the FIVB Rules of the Games and Refereeing Commission. FIVB.com recently took some time to talk to her about her work and the advice she would give to aspiring female referees all over the world.


 Why did you choose volleyball for your professional career?

Volleyball runs in our family. My father and brother played volleyball. And although I played table tennis and volleyball at the same time for a while, my love for volleyball won and I continued to play this beautiful sport. This passion became my job and I am very glad to continue to be part of it as a referee at international events.


Do you have a referee who was your role model during your development in the profession?

Of course. In Serbia it was Dr Vladimir Cuk, who I am proud to call my mentor during my career. From foreign referees, I would also like to highlight Stojan Stojanov from Bulgaria who also contributed to my development in the profession.

Zorica Bjelic officiating during a volleyball match


What are the main challenges in a refereeing career?

In the beginning, it is challenging to overcome your nervousness and not to pay attention to the presence of the audience and their reactions.

Later, it is important to work on continuous improvements in your refereeing. It is critical to understand the essence of the rules of the game, as well as maintaining good communication during the matches with players and coaches while keeping your authority.

With the current speed of the game, maintaining mental health and keeping concentration are also very important. With the introduction of the Challenge System, we can now call for a challenge if we are unsure about the point. This way we can ensure that our decisions are accurate and fair.

Zorica Bjelic with her colleagues during the VNL matches


 What advice would you give to all female referees?

Of course, nowadays most  referees in volleyball are male. When I became an international referee there were only two female referees in Europe and four in the world. Slowly, these numbers grow, and it is important to showcase that there is no difference between the way we officiate the matches.

For any referee, male or female, it is important to be brave and continuously work on improving your skills and knowledge. It is critical to learn from more experienced colleagues, as well as players and coaches. Being on top of all the rule changes introduced is also key.

I believe it is also very helpful to ask your colleagues about your officiating after the matches and of course, to accept advice. We are all human, so mistakes can happen, but what is most important is how we learn from our mistakes to improve our work.

I also believe that in any job it is important to be self-critical and humble even when you reach very notable results in your work. This way you can progress faster and continue growing.